A $5 million class-action lawsuit has been filed accusing Anheuser-Busch of watering down its Budweiser, Michelob and other brands of beer.
The suits, filed in Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey, Ohio and Colorado claim consumers have been cheated out of the alcohol content stated on labels. Budweiser and Michelob each brag of its 5 percent alcohol content, while some “light” beers claim to be just over 4 percent.
Allegedly, more than a dozen former employees from Anheuser-Busch stated that they witnessed or were involved in the process of watering down all of their products. The company claims it was a “simple, cost-saving measure, and it’s very significant.”
The excess water is supposedly added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3 percent to 8 percent. But unlike wine, where they can have a “good year” or a “bad year,” brewers have to be consistent.
Anheuser-Busch InBev calls the claims “groundless” and said its beers fully comply with labeling laws.
“Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws. We proudly adhere to the highest standards in brewing our beers, which have made them the bestselling in the U.S. and the world,” Peter Kraemer, vice president of brewing and supply, said in a statement.
The suit involves ten Anheuser-Busch products: Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.
“Following the merger, AB vigorously accelerated the deceptive practices described below, sacrificing the quality products once produced by Anheuser-Busch in order to reduce costs,” said the lead lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of consumers in the lower 48 states.
Companion suits are being filed this week in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and elsewhere.
The named Pennsylvania plaintiffs, Thomas and Gerald Greenberg of Ambler, said they buy six cases of the affected Anheuser-Busch products a month. They did not immediately return a message Tuesday.
One of the California plaintiffs, Nina Giampaoli of Sonoma County, said she bought a six-pack of Budweiser every week for the past four years.
“I think it’s wrong for huge corporations to lie to their loyal customers – I really feel cheated. No matter what the product is, people should be able to rely on the information companies put on their labels,” Giampaoli said in a news release.
Drinker Brian Wilson, who is suing in federal court in New Jersey, admits to buying a case of Michelob Ultra per month.
The Greenbergs allege that AB InBev began using alcohol-measuring instruments known as Anton Paar meters that can measure the alcohol content (known as ABV) in malt beverages throughout the brewing process and is accurate to within one-hundredth of one percent. The lawsuit alleged that after the merger, the company increasingly chose to dilute its popular brands of beer.
“AB (Anheuser-Busch) never intends for the malt beverages to possess the amount of alcohol that is stated on the label. As a result, AB’s customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and AB is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell,” the lawsuit said.
Last week, the producer of Maker’s Mark bourbon reversed a decision to cut the amount of alcohol in bottles of its famous whiskey after backlash from customers.
The difference between the lawsuit against AB and Maker’s Mark is that Beam made it clear it was reducing its bourbon’s potency. AB never made such an announcement.
Consumers do not want to pay for a product that is less than what they are used to getting. Twitter users compared Budweiser to Poland Spring’s class-action lawsuit that asked whether Poland Spring water really comes from springs.
Not so sure the “King of Beers” is giving their customers the royal treatment or pulling their crowns over their eyes. However you look at it, watered down beer is not what we are paying for.
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